A Stately Home, But Without a Roof

Late last month I got a chance to visit The Vyne, a National Trust property in rural Hampshire. Once a Tudor mansion, like many properties the house had been rebuilt and added too over the years, and I was looking forward to seeing the place. While I’d heard that there was some restoration work going on however, it soon became clear on arrival that I’d seriously under-estimated the scale of the operation!

Having been leaking for years and badly affected by storm damage, The Vyne was having its entire roof stripped off and rebuilt. The result was that practically the whole building was enclosed in scaffolding with a giant tent over the top! The main house was still open, but with all the windows boarded shut it felt eerily like a haunted house wandering through the Tudor stone chapel and eighteenth-century wood-panelled rooms. The collections were all out of place as well, but in a way that actually made the visitor experience more engaging – the quiet chaos of it all giving a better impression of the changes the place had seen over time than the traditional preserved rooms you usually find in NT properties.

Having explored the interior, the time came next to clamber up on to the roof! The NT had constructed a walkway all around the building site, allowing a birds-eye view of the works while explaining how the materials were being sourced. The photo above shows the new lead roof being constructed to allow for better drainage, a process which includes the construction team melting down some of the original leadwork so that it can be reused. The whole site is practically an archaeological dig as well as a building site. Amongst other things, the builders have discovered that medieval timbers were reused in the later extension and repair works, making parts of the building far ‘older’ than they’d previously realised!

Surrounded by gardens and woodland, the site is impressive enough as is and I look forward to going back again once all the work is completed. That said, I doubt I’ll get such a good view of the chimneys next time!

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